50,000 to start fight for refund in holiday firm crash

THOUSANDS of British holidaymakers hit by the collapse of travel operator Goldtrail will be able to begin claiming refunds today.

The Civil Aviation Authority is publishing a form on its website to assist Goldtrail customers left out of pocket and who saw their holidays cancelled at the last minute when the firm went into administration on Friday.

Up to 50,000 people are likely to be affected, with many seeing their plans for a summer break wrecked by the company's demise.

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About 2,000 people were waiting to board planes at UK airports at the weekend – some having already checked their bags in – before learning of Goldtrail's collapse.

The CAA also said people who had booked trips through travel agents might be able to arrange an alternative holiday instead of having a refund.

A CAA spokesman said yesterday: "On Monday the form will be on our website; fill that form in and send it back to us with the receipt from the holiday and we will refund them.

"If they have booked through a travel agent they can call them and ask if that travel agent is willing to arrange another holiday for them in lieu of the refund. The travel agent will then get a refund from us."

Goldtrail, based in New Malden, Surrey, was described as a medium-sized independent operator which had been providing low-cost holidays for more than a decade.

The spokesman said the claims process should be quicker and more straightforward than in the case of XL, a much larger company which collapsed in 2008.

"XL had hundreds of thousands of people whose claims we had to process," he said. "There were complicated legal issues before we could start processing payments and some people did not submit their paperwork until a year later.

"This (Goldtrail) is the kind of failure we are used to. It's not a problem.

"The travel industry is a volatile industry – that's why we have the Atol (Air Travel Organiser's Licensing) scheme."

There was, however, anger and frustration among those who had arrived at airports to start their holidays at the weekend.

About 180 passengers at Glasgow Airport due to travel to Bodrum in Turkey watched departure boards announce repeated delays before their 8.45pm flight was cancelled at midnight.

An airport spokesman said: "People had checked in then the company went into administration."

Joanna Farnan and her friend Mark Mclay said passengers were met by police at the departure gate and warned to hand back any duty free they had purchased.

Cassie Inns, 23, from Surrey, who was due to travel to Turkey with Goldtrail yesterday, said: "I'm very upset. It's just a nightmare. There's no information being given to me so really I don't know anything that's going on at all."

Rochelle Turner from Which? Holiday said: "This is more bad news for British tourists, just when we thought the travel industry was back on its feet following the volcanic ash disruption.

"Once again we are reminded of how important it is to ensure you're protected in case something goes wrong with your holiday."

Travel experts have meanwhile warned other holiday firms are likely to go bust because of fierce competition and the weak economy.